As we continuously contemplate Just Better Care in all that we do as a medical team here at Advanced Senior Care (ASC), we are constantly reminded that it’s all about how we deal with relationships. Our personal relationships, those with our patients and their families, those with the facilities we serve and their staff as well. Relationships are always on our radar and yes, we will always need improvement… but we are intentional about making them a priority.
One long term relationship that we are very proud of is our relationship with the Hospice teams/community here in Mid-Missouri because we believe in this month’s National Hospice slogan “It’s About How You Live” . Our providers and staff have a relational heart for Hospice and Palliative care… and that Heart is one of our best attributes and relationship traits to build from, when we contemplate Just Better Care.
We’re thrilled to feature one of those relationships as we celebrate National Hospice & Palliative Care month. Please join us, by reading, with your heart open, the following guest contribution from our friend and co-laborer in the Mid-Missouri hospice community Dale Willis:
“The Power of Being There”
By Dale Willis, Compassus Volunteer Coordinator
Consider these comments, written by a hospice volunteer after a 90-minute visit with her assigned patient: “The patient stated she is sad today. She had gotten a call informing her that her younger, favorite cousin had died. I gave her time to reflect about him and other deceased family members. Her mood seemed to improve. A hard day, but I’m glad I was there for her.”Those five words say it all: “I was there for her.” That is the essence of being an effective hospice volunteer…to be fully present with the other person.
Hospice volunteers offer the greatest gift they can give: Their presence. Notice what the wise volunteer in the above example did for her patient: she “gave her time to reflect.” In other words, she listened. She gave her full attention – unhurried, caring, without preconceived expectations or hidden agendas. And guess what? “Her mood seemed to improve.” Of course, it did. Don’t we usually feel better when someone takes time to listen and to truly understand how we feel?
Another volunteer wrote this, after her visit: “The patient was asleep, but became aware of my presence and squeezed my hand and held on. No exchange of comments. Prayer and being there was all I could do.”What a beautiful gift this volunteer gave. No words were necessary.
Here is one more example. The volunteer wrote, “The patient was quiet today and not as responsive as usual. I tried several openings, but mainly I did the talking. Then she indicated that we didn’t have to talk to communicate. I agreed. So, I sat with her and held her hands.”
Serving as a Volunteer Coordinator during the past eleven years, a comment I frequently hear – especially from new volunteers – is this: “I feel like I’m not doing any good for this patient.” I think this statement often reflects a lack of understanding of what it means to be a ‘caring presence’ for others. Many hospice patients are unable – due to dementia, stroke, fatigue, or a variety of other reasons – to carry on a meaningful exchange of conversation. When a volunteer tries to ‘visit’ someone like this, she can feel awkward or frustrated, not knowing what to do or say. It is important to remember, though, that “we don’t have to talk, in order to communicate.” Sometimes just sitting quietly by the patient’s side is all he/she needs. Sometimes it is simply your presence – not your verbiage – that brings a sense of comfort.
For many years photo-journalists have been fond of repeating what has become a mantra among zealous photographers: “F8 and be there.” This statement not only speaks to an aspect of photography, but also to the philosophy that undergirds hospice volunteerism. Here is what one photo enthusiast has said about this:
“I am very much enamored by the ‘be there’ part of this slogan. And it’s not just the idea that I have to be somewhere at the right time to get the shot, although that is important. It’s that it’s important to really be there. Eyes have to be open and receptive. The more I can actually be there, in touch with what’s around me, the more apt I am to notice possible shots that would otherwise go unnoticed. Being there is more than just the physical act of being present. It’s the mental state of being there, too.
“Good images aren’t (or at least aren’t often) the result of happenstance, just passively ‘being there.’ But then neither are they (or at least aren’t often) the result of a focused quest for something in particular, ignoring everything that doesn’t fit with what you came to photograph. In my experience, a photographer is best served by adopting an attitude of actively being there, engaged and open to whatever the circumstances may have in store.” – Bob Johnson (www.earthboundlight.com)
Isn’t this exactly what our volunteers do, each time they visit a hospice patient? May we all have the grace to ‘fully, actively be there’ for the people around us, and to follow their lead, wherever they take us…especially for those who are nearing the end of their lives. That is truly the essence of being an effective hospice volunteer.
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Dale is a Certified Volunteer Administrator, and has worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for Compassus for the past 11 years, in both the Columbia and Macon offices. He trains and provides supervision to a team of over 100 volunteers in Central Missouri, who offer companionship and social support to hospice patients and their families.
Thank you, Dale, for your heart for others, for your example to volunteers and for your heart for Hospice and Palliative Care. You exemplify Just Better Care in all you do, and we’re thrilled about our continued relationship with you and your organization.